Manchester Mill to become The Shoppes – Alber Mill

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By Seth Kinker,

The Manchester Mill will soon reopen with new owners.

After sitting for sale for the past few years, the husband and wife team of Stephen Alber and Jennifer Wojtowicz, have come to conditional terms with owner Karl Racenis to purchase the Mill.

Before Racenis owned the Mill, a Manchester man by the name of Don Limpert owned it, doing many renovations to bring it back to the state it sits in currently. Limpert did this in the 1970s with a similar idea that Alber and Wojtowicz had when deciding to purchase the Mill.

“He was doing the same thing we are trying to do,” said Wojtowicz. “Try and fill it up with specialty shops or service businesses and making it kind of a destination spot for Manchester. It’s a landmark, a community gathering place. That’s kind of what we want to do, is take it back to its roots, as far as making it a destination spot. I am going to try my best to get mainly specialty or artisan retail shops inside. We want to  try and offer our tenants an aggressive marketing campaign to bring foot traffic to the Mill specifically and to help revive downtown.”

Wojtowicz, who owns the real estate brokerage Proper Property Services in Manchester, told The Sun Times about how the opportunity and fit both came together to make this a reality.

Last year, Wojtowicz and Alber purchased property from Racenis in the downtown area, that prior relationship, combined with the ties that Alber and Wojtowicz had to the community made way for the sale to take place.

“We have a lot of resources and ties to the community that most people that were interested in purchasing the mill don’t have,” said Wojtowicz. “I know that he had a lot of out of towners looking at the mill but at the end of the day he realized that we were such a good fit for it because we live here, we work here, and we have the resources to continue to maintain it and clean it up and bring it back to life.”

Wojtowicz said that the decision to go ahead in trying to purchase the Mill was made at the end of April or early May. Now, they are just waiting to take over the property. The plan is to take over the street level space on June 29 and the riverfront level on July 31.

In addition to buying the property, Wojtowicz said they will be renaming the Mill to The Shoppes – Alber Mill, which has a Facebook page as well. One of the most common questions Wojtowicz has received thus far pertains to parking,

The lot is private but starting July 1 Wojtowicz noted that it won’t be policed as aggressively, she shared that she expects parking to naturally work itself out once they fill the stores and the need for parking to arise.

“At the end of the day you can have all your service and goods for the residents of the area, but Manchester is limited in its population,” said Wojtowicz. “We’re trying to literally create a destination shopping stop for people to come in.”

Word is beginning to spread via Facebook, and they’ve even reserved a billboard for the next year on US-12 to catch traffic coming out of Irish Hills.

“Were trying to help our tenants, help ourselves, and help the community to bring outsiders in,” said Wojtowicz.

The tandem team of Wojtowicz and Alber bring experience finding tenants and managing property – which are already a forte for Wojtowicz. On the other side, Alber owns an excavating company and a trucking company.

Alber will be handling outside renovations while Wojtowicz focuses indoors. Alber wants to clear out the overgrown brush, which includes grapevines and poison ivy, while adding more trees to the area. He has already begun cleaning up the riverbank. There are also plans to get a bridge back to the island, so people can get to the island once more.

Alber, who spoke with Wojtowicz at the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) placemaking session on May 16, talked about wanting to redo everything exterior wise from painting to adding more parking.

An open house celebration is planned for Aug. 4, the same day as the Run Manchester/Street Festival event. There will be guided tours on the hour from 11am to 4pm with registration beginning at 10am on a first come first serve basis.


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Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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